MassBay students headed to Kenya to help with medical care

Abby Jordan

Jill Ruff and Heather Rascoe have plenty to juggle, as students taking prerequisite nursing classes, with jobs in food services and emergency medicine, and in Ruff's case, as a mother of three.

But the Massachusetts Bay Community College students have taken on another challenge, raising money to go on a service learning trip to Africa, where they'll help provide aid in Samburu, a rural Kenyan village where many people rarely, or ever, get medical attention.

Ruff, 31, of Framingham, and Rascoe, 28, of Natick, call it an opportunity to see how people in other parts of the world live, in this case without electricity, running water or access to doctors, while putting their knowledge to use.

"I think it's a life lesson, opening our eyes to see other cultures," said Ruff, who's worked in emergency medicine for 12 years, and is currently in school full time. Their goal is "to help people (for whom) this is their only lifeline to medical care."

Ruff bought a book on the kinds of ailments the pair might see in Kenya - from malaria, tuberculosis and cholera, to respiratory and eye infections or rashes - many of which are quickly cured in this country.

"They don't have the medical access there, you see different types of things than you see in the U.S.," said Rascoe, who works at Naked Fish in Framingham and goes to school part time.

The trip is in collaboration with the Lion Conservation Fund, which takes a holistic approach to wildlife conservation by also providing humanitarian relief, and Kenya Aid and Relief Effort.

Ruff and Rascoe met in September in their anatomy and physiology classes at MassBay, and learned of the Kenya program from Tina Ramme, their professor and president of Lion Conservation Fund.

The program piqued their interest. They became study partners, then friends, and last month they launched a joint effort to raise $6,000 to cover the trip's cost. Ramme invited them to go on the trip with three other MassBay students.

Ruff and Rascoe hope to raise an additional $1,000 to spend on medical supplies for the 10-day trip, as they help a handful of nurses and doctors evaluate and treat villagers, many of whom will walk long distances for the rare chance to receive medical care, they said.

They'll spend the majority of their days at a temporary tent clinic, but will also spend time visiting schools and orphanages, delivering food and water, school supplies and medicine.

Already, they've begun to collect supplies to take with them, and Ruff has turned it into a learning experience for her children, ages 7, 8 and 9.

"I explained what we're doing, and that some kids don't even have beds and sleep on the floor," Ruff said. "Crayons and Band-aids - things we think are so simple - are needed over there."

After getting their prerequisites out of the way this year, Ruff and Rascoe said they're gearing up for MassBay's nursing program next fall, and after finishing it plan to work in the MetroWest area.

But this semester they've added raising money for the Kenya trip to their workloads, and hope to add to the $200 that family and friends have already donated.

To learn more about their trip, or donate, visit

MetroWest Daily News writer Abby Jordan can be reached at 508-490-7461 or